Opponents of citizens initiative to boost oil taxes have formed a bipartisan coalition

pipeline
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs alongside the Dalton Highway near the Toolik Field Station on June 9, 2017, in the North Slope Borough. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

A bipartisan group has formed to fight a citizens initiative that, if passed, would boost taxes on some of Alaska’s North Slope oil fields.

The group, OneAlaska, does not appear to include any oil industry leaders. But several of its members work for companies or organizations with ties to the industry, and its sole financial supporter, so far, is the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, the industry’s leading trade group in the state.

OneAlaska is chaired by Chantal Walsh, a Democrat who’s a former director of the state’s Division of Oil and Gas. Its co-chairs include former state Rep. Jason Grenn, an independent, and Republican Nicholas Begich III, a nephew of Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.

“The ballot measure is a mistake and should be rejected by voters,” Grenn said in a prepared statement announcing the group’s formation. “It contains provisions that would jeopardize new development and make it harder for companies to invest here.”

Other co-chairs include Crawford Patkotak, the chair of the Alaska Native corporation Arctic Slope Regional Corp., former state forester John Sturgeon and Bill Popp, head of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

Popp, in a phone interview Thursday, said both he and his organization believe that the oil tax initiative is “complex legislation that should not be done at the ballot box.”